Graven Hill

Published 22nd August 2022

Graven Hill is a unique 187 ha development located just to the south of Bicester, Oxfordshire, and will become the UK’s largest self-build housing scheme. Outline planning is in place for up to 1,900 new self-build homes, along with a new village centre with local amenities and employment space. The site will also accommodate 1,000,000 sq ft of commercial space and create up to 2,000 new jobs. The first ten self-build homes to be built were featured in Kevin McCloud’s Channel 4 series, Grand Designs in the summer of 2019.

Waterman was appointed in January 2013 to provide full engineering and environmental consultancy services to the project. Our ongoing involvement with the scheme includes ground engineering, land contamination and remediation, sustainable drainage and SuDS, highways and infrastructure, traffic and transportation, ecology, landscape, archaeology and heritage, air quality and noise.

Ground Conditions and Contamination
Our assessment has indicated that there is, surprisingly for a MOD site, very little ground contamination and there will be minimal remediation. This land contamination assessment has been undertaken in co-ordination with the geotechnical assessment to ensure efficient re-use of soils on site in a sustainable manner.

Ecology Advice
As an operational MOD base set in a large green estate, the site has a wide range of ecological interest, including specially protected wildlife species. Our ecology team has devised a Habitat Creation and Management Plan, in order to discharge ecological planning conditions. Working alongside our landscape colleagues, a mosaic of wildlife habitats will be created, combining retained hedgerows and woodland with new wetlands and areas of wildflower rich meadows.

Conservation and Heritage
Graven Hill was constructed in the 1940s as a MOD logistics depot. It is believed to have been the largest domestic military construction project during the World War Two and played a vital logistical role in operations such as Overlord (D-Day). Our teams have carried out comprehensive heritage building recording of all extant structures which included logistic hangars, air raid shelters and the Bicester Military Railway. We have also managed archaeological fieldwork, during which a Roman road was excavated, as well as artefacts from the Prehistoric, Roman, Medieval, and Post-Medieval periods, including evidence of World War Two Prisoner of War Camps.

Creating the Landscape
Our landscape team has played a key role in the design and co-ordination of the development to create a framework for placemaking for future residents. The landscape design has embraced an eclectic mix of traditional rural management techniques and contemporary solutions including the reinvention of military features, creative use of drainage systems and the development of urban lanes.

“Waterman has played a key role in securing planning permission for this exciting development. We are now working closely with their team on the detailed designs for the site and developing the main infrastructure with the aim of the first plots becoming available in 2016.” Adrian Unitt, Operations Director, Graven Hill Village Development Company Limited.

Location: Oxfordshire
Client: Graven Hill Village Development Company Ltd
Architect: Glenn Howells Architects Ltd